« AnteriorContinuar »
weighty and massive, and indicates strong sense in every line. It often rises to an eloquence, not florid or impassioned, but high, grave, and sober; such as would become a state paper, or a judgment delivered by a great magistrate, a Somers, or a D'Aguesseau.
In this respect the character of Mr. Hallam's mind corresponds strikingly with that of his style. His work is eminently judicial. Its whole spirit is that of the bench, not that of the bar. He sums up with a calm, steady impartiality, turning neither to the right nor to the left, glossing over nothing, exaggerating nothing, while the advocates on both sides are alternately biting their lips to hear their conflicting mistatements and sophisms exposed. On a general survey, we do not scruple to pronounce the Constitutional History the most impartial book that we ever read. We think it the more incumbent on us to bear this testimony strongly at first setting out, because, in the course of our remarks, we shall think it right to dwell principally on those parts of it from which we dissent.
There is one peculiarity about Mr. Hallam, which, while it adds to the value of his writings, will, we fear, take away something from their popularity. He is less of a worshipper than any historian whom we can call to mind. Every political sect has its esoteric and its exoteric school ; its abstract doctrines for the initiated, its visible symbols, its imposing forms, its mythological fables for the vulgar. It assists the devotion of those who are unable to raise them. selves to the contemplation of pure truths, by all the devices of Pagan or Papal superstition. It has its altars and its deified heroes, its relics and pilgrimages, its canonized martyrs and confessors, its festivals and its legendary miracles. Our pious ancestors, we are told, deserted the High Altar of Canterbury, to lay all their oblations on the shrine of St. Thomas. In the same manner the great and comfortable
doctrines of the Tory creed, those particularly which relate to restrictions on worship and on trade, are adored by squires and rectors, in Pitt Clubs, under the name of a minister, who was as bad a representative of the system which has been christened after him, as Becket of the spirit of the Gospel. And, on the other hand, the cause for which Hampden bled on the field, and Sidney on the scaffold, is enthusiastically toasted by many an honest radical, who would be puzzled to explain the difference between Shipmoney and the Habeas Corpus act. It may be added, that, as in religion, so in politics, few, even of those who are enlightened enough to comprehend the meaning latent under the emblems of their faith, can resist the contagion of the popular superstition. Often, when they flatter themselves that they are merely feigning a compliance with the preju. dices of the vulgar, they are themselves under the influence of those very prejudices. It probably was not altogether on grounds of expediency, that Socrates taught his followers to honor the gods whom the state honored, and bequeathed a cock to Esculapius with his dying breath. So there is often a portion of willing credulity and enthusiasm in the veneration which the most discerning men pay to their political idols. From the very nature of man it must be so, The faculty by which we inseparably associate ideas which have often been presented to us in conjunction, is not under the absolute control of the will. It may be quickened into morbid activity. It may be reasoned into sluggishness. But in a certain degree it will always exist. The almost absolute mastery which Mr. Hallam has obtained over feelings of this class, is perfectly astonishing to us; and will, we believe, be not only astonishing, but offensive to many of his readers. It must particularly disgust those people who, in their speculations on politics, are not reasoners but fanciers; whose opinions, even when sincere, are not produced, according to
the ordinary law of intellectual births, by induction and inference, but are equivocally generated by the heat of fervid tempers out of the overflowings of tumid imaginations. A man of this class is always in extremes. He cannot be a friend to liberty without calling for a community of goods, or a friend to order without taking under his protection the foulest excesses of tyranny. His admiration oscillates between the most worthless of rebels and the most worthless of oppressors ; between Marten, the scandal of the High Court of Justice, and Laud, the scandal of the Star Chamber. He can forgive anything but temperance and impartiality. He has a certain sympathy with the violence of his opponents, as well as with that of his associates. In every furious partisan he sees either his present self or his former self, the pensioner that is, or the Jacobin that has been. But he is unable to comprehend a writer who, steadily attached to principles, is indifferent about names and badges ; who judges of characters with equable severity, not altogether. untinctured with cynicism, but free from the slightest touch of passion, party spirit, or caprice.
We should probably like Mr. Hallam’s book more, if, instead of pointing out, with strict fidelity, the bright points and the dark spots of both parties, he had exerted himself to whitewash the one, and to blacken the other. But we should certainly prize it far less. Eulogy and invective may be had for the asking. But for cold rigid justice — the one weight and the one measure we know not where else we can look.
No portion of our annals has been more perplexed and misrepresented by writers of different parties, than the history of the Reformation. In this labyrinth of falsehood and sophistry, the guidance of Mr. Hallam is peculiarly valuable. It is impossible not to admire the evenhanded justice with which he deals out castigation to right and left on the rival persecutors.
It is vehemently maintained by some writers of the present day, that the government of Elizabeth persecuted neither Papists nor Puritans as such; and occasionally that the severe measures which it adopted were dictated, not by religious intolerance, but by political necessity. Even the excellent account of those times, which Mr. Hallam has given, has not altogether imposed silence on the authors of this fallacy. The title of the Queen, they say, was annulled by the Pope ; her throne was given to another; her subjects were incited to rebellion; her life was menaced; every Catholic was bound in conscience to be a traitor ; it was therefore against traitors, not against Catholics, that the penal laws were enacted.
That our readers may be the better able to appreciate the merits of this defence, we will state, as concisely as possible, the substance of some of these laws.
As soon as Elizabeth ascended the throne, and before the least hostility to her government had been shown by the Catholic population, an act passed, prohibiting the celebration of the rites of the Romish Church, on pain of forfeiture for the first offence, a year's imprisonment for the second, and perpetual imprisonment for the third.
A law was next made in 1562, enacting, that all who had ever graduated at the Universities, or received holy orders, all lawyers, and all magistrates, should take the oath of supremacy when tendered to them, on pain of forfeiture, and imprisonment during the royal pleasure. After the lapse of three months, it might again be tendered to them ; and, if it were again refused, the recusant was guilty of high treason ! A prospective law, however severe, framed to exclude Catholics from the liberal professions, would have been mercy itself compared with this odious act. It is a retrospective statute ; it is a retrospective penal statute ; it is a retrospective penal statute against a large class. We will not
positively affirm that a law of this description' must always, and under all circumstances, be unjustifiable. But the presumption against it is most violent; nor do we remember any crisis, either in our own history, or in the history of any other country, which would have rendered such a provision necessary. But in the present, what circumstances called for extraordinary rigor? There might be disaffection among the Catholics. The prohibition of their worship would naturally produce it. But it is from their situation, not from their conduct ; from the wrongs which they had suffered, not from those which they had committed, that the existence of discontent among them must be inferred. There were libels, no doubt, and prophecies, and rumors, and suspicions ; strange grounds for a law inflicting capital penalties, ex post facto, on a large order of men.
Eight years later, the bull of Pius deposing Elizabeth produced a third law. This law, to which alone, as we conceive, the defence now under our consideration can apply, provides, that if any Catholic shall convert a Protestant to the Romish Church, they shall both suffer death, as for high treason.
We believe that we might safely content ourselves with stating the faet, and leaving it to the judgment of every plain Englishman. Recent controversies have, however, given so much importance to this subject, that we will offer a few remarks on it.
In the first place, the arguments which are urged in favor of Elizabeth, apply with much greater force to the case of her sister Mary. The Catholics did not, at the time of Elizabeth's accession, rise in arms to seat a Pretender on her throne. But before Mary had given, or could give, provocation, the most distinguished Protestants attempted to set aside her rights in favor of the Lady Jane. That attempt, and the subsequent insurrection of Wyatt, furnished